Ryan Burgett, April 28, 2012
I’ve been reading a wonderful book called The Expanded Life by Myron Augsburger and really got a download from Holy Spirit tonight as I read. I have been on an incredible journey over the last few years from being a conservative evangelical to now being some type of Quaker or Anabaptist thing. But over the course of this journey, I have come to the firm conclusion that all use of force against other human beings is wrong for me as a Christian. I have come to believe in radical pacifism. I found it in the words of Jesus and I am a disciple of His. But what hit me tonight was something deeper than that. What I have wondered was the “why” behind what Jesus said and taught. It hit me tonight that it is because of forgiveness that we can bring no harm to another human being.
Jesus mentioned forgiveness many times, almost always equating God’s forgiveness for us with our forgiveness of others. As God forgives, so are we to forgive. So the question then becomes, who does God forgive? That question was answered on the cross. There Jesus took the penalty of justice for our wrongdoings upon Himself, and left forgiveness for all of us. There was not a sin ever committed for which Jesus did not die. His payment for us was absolutely complete. Our sin and guilt and shame was replaced with grace and mercy and forgiveness.
So if God has forgiven all, do I have a right to not do the same? There is nothing that a person can do to me which has not already been paid for and forgiven by God. So it does not matter what someone does to me, my only response should be forgiveness. I can be robbed, shot, stabbed, tortured, eaten or anything and it does not make a difference! For me to respond with force against them would be to put myself above Jesus, and put me in the position of trying to extract through violence justice which has already been served by Him.
And the greatest example of all for us is Jesus. Remember that he reprimanded Peter for violently defending Him at the time of His unlawful arrest. Tell me, was anyone more justified in human terms that Peter at that moment? If there was a time for Christian violence, surely it was then! But Jesus rebuked him. Then later after unimaginable torture and pain, Jesus hung dying on the cross suffering the greatest injustice the world had ever seen, and in that moment he asked for forgiveness for the people who were doing that to Him. Jesus could have called down fire or just struck them down by the power of His own words, but He did not. He suffered injustice in order to pay the penalty of justice for us, and left us the perfect example of how we should respond to those around us.
I have no right to exact from another person the penalty of justice which has already been paid. They can do whatever they want to me, and my immediate response in ever situation should be forgiveness. It’s all about forgiveness.
Besides, the worst a person can do is send me and my family into the presence of Jesus!